Rotary ‘Fines’ Fund Scholarships

Photo by Jeff Cambra This year’s Rotary scholarship winners: top row from left: Andy Rosales, $500, Island High School (IHS); Daniel Gines, $500, IHS; Jaime Ordonez Quevedo, $1,000, IHS; Donald Wu, $3,000, Alameda High School (AHS); Kimberly Young, $2,000, Alameda Science & Technical Institute (ASTI); Allison Young, $3,000, St Joseph-Notre Dame High School (SJND); bottom row from left: Edylwise Romero, $3,000, ASTI; Ariel Moyal, $3,000 AHS; Joanna Fontillas, $500, SJND; Kiera Sumida, $2,000, ASTI; Claire

Nine members of the Island City’s class of 2015 will find the cost of their education a little less burdensome, thanks to scholarships funded by fines from the members of the Rotary Club of Alameda. Earlier this year, the club awarded $24,000 in scholarships to Alameda’s best and brightest as part of the organization’s commitment to the Rotary motto, "Service above Self." Many Alameda-based nonprofits receive money from the Rotary’s community grants program, which is funded by beverage sales at Concerts at the Cove and the support of local business sponsors.

While the community grants program is well known, the club’s annual scholarship program is not. "It is one of the best-kept secrets in the city. We reach out to all the high schools in town and ask the administration to distribute applications to the seniors," said Todd Wellnitz, the club’s scholarship committee chair. "The committee reviews the applications, conducts an interview with each applicant, selects the winners and awards the grants at the club’s regular lunch meeting."

Rotary does not limit the recipients to just students attending college, Wellnitz said. "Rotary recognizes other career paths besides the traditional college track and awards scholarships to students who wish to pursue other interests." Daniel Gines, Joanna Fontillas and Thomas Whittaker each received $500 checks to pursue fine arts interests, and Andy Rosales received $500 to attend vocational school.

"The money for Rotary scholarships comes from ‘fines’ voluntarily paid by the eighty-plus club members," said Jeff Miller, the past Fine Master. "The fines are actually donations made by members and characterized as ‘happy bucks,’ ‘sad dollars,’ an acknowledgement of milestones in a member’s life, or in recognition of the efforts of a fellow Rotarian." For example, Barbara Brown from R & B Cellars recently paid a fine in memory of the family dog, Ajax, and George Rose contributed $20 to celebrate the birth of his first great-great-granddaughter and an additional $20 to celebrate the Cleveland Indians signing Brian Shaw, one of his 34 grandchildren.

To date, the Rotary Club of Alameda has contributed more than $50,000 to Alameda residents and nonprofit organizations. For more information about the club and how to be a part of the club’s efforts to assist the community, contact Jeff Cambra at jeffcambra@earthlink.net or 865-7369